Monday, 3 October 2016
Okay, there's an element of spin to it because if we are going to leave the EU then it is a given that we have to repeal the legislation that took us into it in the first place. But at least now, 101 days after the referendum, we are starting to see some kind of schedule appear. At least now the Government is starting to fill in the gaps - which is to say they are starting to write something on the blank sheet of paper.
It is a surprise that anyone has found any of this surprising. Of course there has been a gap between the referendum and any detail emerging. Of course there has been a gap between the new prime minister taking up office and appointing her Government and the first details emerging. And of course they are keeping their cards close to their chests. We should not expect any less. This is by far the most important negotiation that any Government from this island has attempted since we joined the then EEC all of those years ago. And what a pig's ear they made of it.
Such was our desperation back then that Heath took what he was given and was pathetically grateful. Now, happily, we are in a much better negotiating position. Quite apart from anything else we have the luxury of time. The fact that our delay over invoking Article 50 is frustrating and annoying Brussels and our neighbours is all part of the game.
Europe is letting it be known that they will not allow us access to their single market unless we give ground on free movement. We are letting it be known that the latter is non negotiable. If only Dave had thought of that he might still have been doing our negotiating for us. Some of us did try to tell him that there was no need to call his referendum this year at all. He should have used the threat of it to get us a better deal. But instead of doing that he preferred to lie to the British people and threaten us with consequences instead. The rest is history.
Theresa May and her Government are playing what looks on the surface to be a canny game. They are not giving their negotiating partners what they want and refusing to be rushed. The civil service is putting together its files and maybe some of the resources of our formidable espionage agencies are being used too.
There is also the politics of this. The Conservative Party is pleased with its new prime minister thus far. She is never going to be flash like Dave was and is going to give them less to cheer about at PMQs. She is a careful and deliberate operator who takes her time and will not be hurried. But she seems to be fully signed up to the cause of Brexit. Of course some of us always suspected that she was signed up to it all along but was playing a canny game. If that is the case then her success in these negotiations is looking a decent probability too.
Britain does not need to be a member of the single market and indeed it is better if we are not. We should offer the EU access to our markets on a free basis and request the same in return. That is fair and equitable. We voted for our independence from the EU and jurisdiction of ourselves too. We always wanted to be part of a trading arrangement. It was politicians who tried to turn it into something more. That is the relationship we want now. It looks like that is what we will get. The way Europe is going it cannot happen soon enough.